Hot Tuna: Keep On Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna

For devout Tuna fans, Jorma and Jack are beloved members of a collective extended family.

Hot Tuna

Keep On Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2006-06-06
UK Release Date: 2006-06-06

It's quite amazing to consider how long Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady have been making beautiful music together. Their unique friendship and musical bond predate their days in Jefferson Airplane, and have remained a constant in an ever-changing world. That's the good news. The better news is that Jorma and Jack continue to share their talents well into a fifth decade, via the great side project, Hot Tuna. And with the public's newfound appreciation for the jam band aesthetic over the last several years, their music is as current now as ever before.

For devout Tuna fans, Jorma and Jack are beloved members of a collective extended family. For newcomers and casuals fans, however, the two are something of a best kept secret. Yet, long before Phish and Govt. Mule were household names, Hot Tuna was the preeminent extended play outfit. Heck, Jorma and Jack were stretching sets even before the Allmans joined the fray. And with countless performances (and nearly two dozen albums) on a 40-year-long resume, the Hot Tuna legend continues to grow.

Though it's impossible to quantify the scope of Hot Tuna with a single platter, The Very Best Of does an admirable job of distilling 14 tracks from the expansive Tuna catalogue. Culled from studio and stage, the material covers Tuna's work in the 1970s, and provides a wonderful primer for understanding and appreciating the musical direction (and vision) of Jorma and Jack. From the opening strums of "Hesitation Blues" to the final fading notes of "Killing Time in the Crystal City", the magic of Hot Tuna is everywhere for all to see and hear. Besides the precise musicianship, the key lies in the music's accessibility. Traditionally, jam band output has been the acquired taste of a dedicated fan base, loyal to the genre and its respective practitioners. But Jorma and Jack are so darn engaging, and their playing so seamless, that it's difficult not to instantly be drawn into their unique world of rollicking bluegrass rhythms, irrespective of one's preferences. Make no mistake, The Very Best Of isn't some ambling sonic journey to nowhere, but a collection of tunes from Tuna's maturation period. And there's something for everyone to enjoy … Jorma's vocals are steady and sure; his fretboard work, crisp at times, twangy at others, but consistently masterful. Compare the diversity of his playing on the breezy "True Religion" and the scorching electric frenzy of "Funky #7", (then wonder aloud why he's not more recognized as a phenomenal guitarist). And Jack? He provides the solid rhythmic foundation throughout, with a particularly notable solo in "Candy Man".

Ironically, of the album's song list, only three tracks come in north of the six-minute mark, thus, there aren't any big jams to indulge in. But no worries, the album radiates with unpretentious warmth, be it acoustic or electric, live or not. And despite The Very Best Of being a thumbnail sketch of Hot Tuna, there lies a remarkable gem among its offerings. "Water Song" is as exquisite an instrumental as ever recorded, laden with hooks and nuances that bring to mind a flowing hillside steam. It's a song that personifies all that Hot Tuna has accomplished, and continues to offer its fans and friends.

So, if you're new to Tuna, The Very Best Of is a perfect entre into the mix. And if you're a card-carrying Tuna aficionado, then the tracks will be a pleasant addition to the CD collection. But no matter who you are, or how long you've been into the band, just remember … if you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.